Lawmakers hear case against legal marijuana

Published: Oct. 15, 2019 at 4:36 PM EDT
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

October 15, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Members of a House committee heard from a Harvard scientist about the potential pitfalls of legalizing recreational marijuana in Florida.

The scientist argued the social costs might outweigh any economic benefits.

House majority leader Ray Rodrigues has long raised concerns over the use of marijuana.

“High THC that's being smoked on a daily basis is harmful,” said Rodrigues in a committee meeting in April of 2019.

Now, in the Committee he chairs, he’s bringing scientists to give lawmakers a glimpse into some of the data that he says is often left out of the legalization debate.

Dr. Bertha Madras, a Harvard Professor of Psychobiology, expressed concerns over rising THC content in modern cannabis and increased rates of depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, suicide and other substance abuse among marijuana users.

“It is the most self-delusional drug of all,” said Madras. “People are not aware of what's happening to them as they use heavily, as they use more and more, as it erodes their sense of wellbeing.”

Another concern raised by the Harvard Professor debt with recent vaping illnesses across the U.S.

She said 75% of cases were related to THC vaporizers, not nicotine.

“I urge this state to be thoughtful and diligent before launching yet another massive human experiment,” said Madras.

Advocates push back, attributing many of the issues marijuana users experience to social stigma.

“Normalization, it'll help all around with families, with family relations, with just everything in general,” said Melissa Villar with NORML Florida.

The presentations are strictly to educate lawmakers, who may find themselves in a position of developing regulations around legal marijuana whether they like it or not.

Three citizen initiatives for legalization are gathering signatures for the 2020 ballot.

“And it's important we're equipped with facts that we can then share with our constituents,” said Rep. Rodrigues.

Testimony from a former Colorado Marijuana official and the Florida Board of Health will be heard Wednesday.

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